Deforestation in Nigeria: a critical assessment of the Church of Christ in Nations’ (COCIN) Community Development Programme (CCDP) on ecology in Panyam District, Angu Local Government Council, Plateau State.
Kohon, Habila Solomon.
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This research has investigated the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) Community Development Programme (CCDP’s) theology on ecology. The reason for doing this research was that ecological problems pose a global danger to humanity and the environment. In Nigeria, where the research is situated, one of the common ecological problems is deforestation. Nigeria is critically affected by deforestation as a result of the negative human impacts on the ecosystem, such as relying on firewood as one of the major sources of energy in many rural and urban areas. This research starts with the argument that anthropogenic activities, such as mining, urban development, slash and burn agricultural practices and the felling of trees for the production of charcoal as a source of energy, are the main causes of deforestation in Nigeria. These human activities have resulted in other environmental crises such as soil erosion, loss of biodiversity, the extinction of some indigenous and medicinal plant species and even desertification in some regions in the country. The research found that the COCIN, as one of the main church denominations in Nigeria, does not have any specific document that contains its beliefs and teachings on ecology. However, a careful study of the church’s liturgy on the dedication of the farming season and the thanksgiving service in the COCIN Service Handbook indicates that both human and non-human creation belong to God. From this stand point, it was deduced that one of the beliefs of COCIN on ecology is that God has given to humankind the mandate to care for other creatures. In order to further investigate the issue of deforestation in Nigeria, the research applied Nick Spencer’s theory on “The Biblical Vision of Care for the Environment” as a justifiable framework. Through the application of Nick Spencer’s theory, this research assessed the activities of COCIN’s Community Development Programme (CCDP) as a development arm of the COCIN. This was to ascertain whether their activities, such as raising tree seedlings and organising workshops in some schools and communities and to COCIN’s pastors, help in reducing deforestation in Panyam district and its environs. The research discovered that, despite the awareness created by CCDP for the COCIN’s pastors on climate change and the importance of tree planting, virtually all the sermon notes examined during this study did not reflect any theme on ecology or environmental degradation. To this end, Sallie McFague’s “Planetary Theology” was used to show that humankind needs to embrace the ecological worldview. This idea is based on sustainability, distributive justice and the fair allocation of resources among people in the community. Following the investigation, it is suggested that ecology as a course should be introduced into the curriculum of the Bible Schools and Seminaries that are owned and controlled by COCIN and by so doing, the church will fulfil its prophetic role to the environment.